In 2004, Catholic Democratic Sen. John Kerry declared in a presidential debate that his faith was "why I fight against poverty. That's why I fight to clean up the environment and protect this earth. That's why I fight for equality and justice. All of those things come out of that fundamental teaching and belief of faith."
One of Ayatollah Kerry's favorite rhetorical flourishes was to note that a Christian must "demonstrate faith with deeds" -- and the deeds Kerry had in mind were the liberal policies he always supported. Abortion, of course, was the one great exception to his effort to impose his faith on Americans.
Let's be clear: Anti-poverty programs, environmental regulations and tax increases are impositions too. Refuse to abide with any of them and the government will either force you to comply or put you in jail. If your Catholic (or Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or pagan) faith drives you to pass regulations that shut down a coal mine, you'll have imposed a lot of people right out of a job.
I strongly doubt that Gopnik and the rest of the faith-fearing liberals mind when progressive figures insist their policies are motivated by religion. President Obama routinely waxes biblical in his view of government: "I am my brother's keeper," he has said repeatedly. It is, to be sure, an odd recasting of the Bible, since Cain's question to God -- "Am I my brother's keeper?" -- was simply an attempt to dodge a murder rap. But he is invoking his faith nonetheless. And Nancy Pelosi says her Catholic faith "compels" her to support gay marriage. Really.
It might be that secular liberals aren't offended by all this because they think Democrats are simply lying. That's probably true in some cases, but it's surely unfair in others. Biden seems sincere when he says he's a faithful liberal Catholic. And that's forgivable so long as he remembers that the "liberal" comes first in "liberal Catholic."